Car Safety and Travel Tips
CAR SAFETY FOR DOGS
Conditioning your dog to ride comfortably in a car is a necessity, even if you will not be taking him for rides very often. He will have to ride in a car to go to the veterinarian, to training sessions, etc., so the dog must be prepared for it. Most dogs adapt fairly quickly, while others need more time. Most dogs like to ride in cars, especially if they were introduced to them early in life.
To make sure you’re both traveling safely, your dog should be restrained during his car ride. An unrestrained pet is not only in danger, he’s also dangerous. In a 30-mph crash, a 60 lb. dog can hit the windshield, backseat, or another passenger with a force of 1200 lbs. If he were to escape a crash uninjured, an unrestrained, frightened dog could hamper efforts of rescue works at the scene. Also, an unrestrained pet can directly interfere with the driver or cause a distraction to the driver. The Humane Society of the United States advises the safest place for a traveling pet is either properly restrained in the rear seat, cargo area or placed in an appropriate pet carrier. Restraints help a pet feel more secure while traveling and are essential for the safety of all the passengers, both human and animal. There are several pet restraints available at pet stores, including plastic crates, wire cages, pet seats, a wire or mesh barrier, or a pet harness that attaches to the seat belt.
Carsickness in quite common, especially in young dogs. Unlike carsickness in humans, which is due to inner ear problems, dogs usually experience carsickness due to fear. To help ease your dog’s anxiety, take your dog to the car and just sit there without the engine on. Give him a treat if you like. Do this for seven to ten days. Then one day, start the car. Praise him and talk to him, giving him a treat before and after you start the engine. Do this for several minutes a day for the next few days. Once your dog is used to sitting in the car, back up to the end of the driveway and drive back up a few times. Give the dog praise and treats if he doesn’t get frightened. You can now progress to taking short drives; start by going around the block and gradually work up to longer distances. His carsickness should gradually start to improve. Also try rolling down the windows. The fresh air may help alleviate some of his carsickness. It’s a good idea to withhold food for six to eight hours before embarking on a long trip. Having an empty stomach will make him less likely to get carsick, and if he does, there won't be any food in his stomach so it will be easier to clean up. If you want to feed your dog, feed a smaller amount than normal at least two hours before you leave. Giving your pet water won’t upset his stomach and may make him more comfortable.
Pack supplies for your dog, including his own bowls, food, water, leash, and favorite toys that will make him feel comfortable. Make frequent rest stops along your trip to allow the dog to relieve himself and get some exercise. Offer the dog water if he won’t or can’t drink while in the car. Make sure your dog’s ID tags are up to date and consider keeping a packet with important information about your dog in the glove compartment, in case you’re involved in an accident.
When planning a trip, you must decide on your dog’s care and whether to take him along or leave him. When making this decision, consider your dog’s personality and the length and distance of the trip. Boarding your dog at a veterinarian’s office, boarding kennel, or hiring a pet sitter are options if you decide to leave your pet behind. Costs will vary with each of these alternatives. Make sure you do your homework and choose a boarding facility or pet sitter as carefully as you would choose a daycare for your child. You want the person(s) taking care of your dog to be reliable and trustworthy.
Leaving Your Dog Behind
Boarding your dog or hiring a pet sitter are options if you decide to leave your pet behind. Ask your veterinarian or other pet owners to recommend a reputable boarding facility or pet sitter.
Here are some general tips:
- If boarding, visit the facility to meet the people and to check for safety and cleanliness of the operation. If hiring a pet sitter, meet the sitter in your home and see how he or she interacts with your dog.
- Make reservations in advance of your trip. Many facilities fill up early, especially over the holidays.
- Be sure your dog is current on all required vaccinations.
- If your dog is on medication, be sure to leave an ample supply and clear and complete instructions.
- Leave feeding instructions and a supply of your dog’s regular food. If leaving your dog with a pet sitter, discuss his exercise routine.
- Be sure your dog wears a collar with up to date identification tags.
- Leave information about your veterinarian including office and emergency numbers.
- Be sure to leave a number where you can be reached.
Taking Your Dog Along
- Call ahead to be sure your dog will be welcome at the hotel, motel, inn or campground where you will be staying.
- Be sure your dog is current on all required vaccinations. Take along his medical records.
- Take along your dog’s regular food, special medications, a supply of water, and if space is available, his bedding and favorite toy(s).
- Be sure your dog wears a collar with up to date identification tags. The identification tag should have your name and phone number on it. Take a photo with you in case your dog gets lost. Never leave your dog loose in a hotel room when you are not there. Keep your dog confined in his crate and check on him frequently. When taking him out of the room, keep him on leash at all times.
- When traveling in a vehicle, it is safest for you and your pet to keep him confined to a carrier or use a pet restraint such as a pet harness that attaches to the seat belt. Never let him ride with his head out of the window or in the back of a truck.
- Pack a first aid kit for your dog. It’s always a good idea to have one handy, just in case.
- Stop often on long trips to allow your dog to relieve himself and get some exercise.
- If your dog is prone to carsickness, withhold food for six to eight hours before embarking on a long trip. If you want to feed your dog, feed a smaller amount than normal at least two hours before you leave. Giving your dog water won’t upset his stomach and may make him more comfortable.
- Never leave your dog in a hot car, even if you park in the shade. Just a few minutes in a hot car could cause irreversible damage or death.